Metro hospitals, doctors’ offices packed and busy as people try to meet high deductibles and save money

LIBERTY, Mo. -- For hospitals and doctors' offices, it's a busy time of year as people are hoping to take advantage of high deductible plans.

Waiting rooms are packed with people who have used all or most of their deductibles, hoping their insurance companies pick up the remainder of the tab.

Craig Williams is one of those patients.

“It was a procedure for a hiatal hernia," the 56-year-old Liberty Hospital patient said. "It was repaired. It was something I've had since I was young, and it just got to the point that it needed to be taken care of. I probably wouldn't even have had it done, except for I had an MRI on my knee earlier in the year, and it pretty much ate up my deductible.”

Doctors told Williams a few weeks ago his condition had gotten worse, and he needed surgery -- during the busiest time of year for health care facilities.

“It's usually very busy," said David Feess, president and CEO of Liberty Hospital. "But with high deductible health plans, it's becoming more and more a busy time of year as people and patients try to meet their deductibles or exceed their deductibles, so it`s less out of their pocket. So this is the time of year that we really get busy with patients."

Feess said many departments have to prepare and staff accordingly for this time of year.

“Typically, it's an elective type of knee or hip procedure that you're looking at doing, or something that really isn't something that needs immediate attention,” Feess said. “Sometimes patients have a hard time getting in to see a physician this time of year, so planning early on the patient's part is always a wise decision.”

It was very last minute for Williams, but they squeezed him in for multiple appointments plus a surgery.

“I feel like I got pretty lucky,” Williams said. “Other than the 20 percent that I had to come up with, everything else will be paid for 100 percent, where if I had waited until January the second, then all of that would have still been the case, except I would have $1,000 additional out of my pocket.”

Williams said the hospital was extremely busy.

“It was like a bunch of ants running around, but the quality of care was awesome,” Williams said.

But he's thankful his deductible is low, and he was able to take advantage of it.

“When you're young, you don't care about deductibles because you don't really go to the doctor," he said. "But as people start getting older, deductibles are really important."